Fewer Than 1 In 4 Couples Seeking Counselling To Save Broken Marriage

Survey By Irwin Mitchell Reveals Women More Open To Seeking Specialist Help To Avoid Divorce


A new survey has revealed that fewer than one in four couples seeks professional counselling to try to save their marriage when they are going through a difficult time in their relationship.

Research by the specialist Family and Divorce Law team at Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, which has offices across the country found that while 37% of couples going through a rocky patch said they thought counselling would help, only 23% were actively seeking help.

The survey of 2,000 people also revealed that on average couples sought counselling for four months with 12% saying it helped to save their marriage. However the stats also showed that gender played a part in the difference in attitudes to counselling with 45% of females believing that it would help save a relationship compared with just 28% of men.

Both men and women agreed that they would confide in their best friend first regarding their relationship (33%) with 23% saying they turned to their mum for advice. Worryingly, 35% said they confided in no one – rising to 40% of men.

Just last month the Prime Minister David Cameron announced a rise in funding available for ante-natal counselling to £20m. This support will include relationship advice on the potential stresses of having children and health visitors will be asked to offer relationship support to new parents.

The Irwin Mitchell report also gave insight as to how hard couples are prepared to fight to save their marriage with 75% believing that people give up on relationships too easily and couples believing that they should try to save the relationship for at least 11 months on average. 

Lack of communication was the biggest driver in break-down of marriages (40%) while 25% said that money worries and taking each other for granted were major issues.

Family lawyers also believe that counselling can play an important role in helping some couples to recognise that a relationship is irreparable.
Expert Opinion
The survey suggests that people are looking to friends and family to help them get through a separation or divorce but there are other experts who may be able to help.

“Only 23% of couples took specialist counselling despite 37% saying that they thought it could help. This suggests that people aren’t sure where they can get help in saving their marriage.

“There are also differences between attitudes to counselling from both men and women which could mean that it is important that counsellors can get both partners on side quickly when trying to help.

“We know from experience that counselling can help people going through a difficult period but perhaps there is a stigma attached that people are struggling to overcome. People may also feel that deep down counselling may be the final proof that their relationship is finally over and they may be putting it off on that basis. Good counsellors will be able to help couples to come to terms with what is best for both partners.

“Seeking professional help about something so sensitive and personal can feel like admitting failure but instead it should be seen as a positive sign to each other that you are committed to getting the best possible support.

“The statistics show that the majority of people do have the desire to try to make things work but they perhaps need a gentle reminder of the range of support options open to them.

"As well as a way to save relationships, if separation is inevitable couples will often be at very different emotional stages during a separation, and not sure what they want. Counselling can be a crucial support with many clients saying that whilst the process of divorce was of course still painful, counselling really helped to provide objective and practical support at a difficult time.

“All experienced family lawyers will help their clients to do things at a pace that suits them emotionally whenever possible, and will be able to give details of counsellors who are experienced in the complex area of relationships and can see couples individually as well as together where that is going to be helpful.”

Alison Hawes, Partner